Chapter 2: Evaluating Information

2.5 Why Go Beyond Google?

To find the information you need from the open web, particularly scholarly information, you need to be able to search effectively. You can search for just about anything using Google and get millions of results. With all of those results, why bother to search beyond Google? For some answers, let’s look a little closer at how Google works.

Google uses proprietary algorithms and a unique ranking system to determine where a website will be placed in your search results. This order is based on the idea that the more links there are to a website, the more authoritative, interesting, important, or reliable that website is. Your Google search results will generally lead with the most-linked sites that contain your search terms. However, these may not be the best sites for your intended purpose.

While Google is certainly the largest and most heavily used search engine, there are plenty of others available for use on the web. Other search engines may have different ranking systems and you may see results listed in a different order. You may even see differences between one computer and the next due to the effects of your search history.

Sponsored links are advertisements that often appear at the top of your search results. This means that someone has paid to have their website appear at the top of a specific web search. Depending on the search engine you’re using, it may not always be easy to identify these ads from your real search results. Some are clearly labeled, others are not. Be sure you know the difference between these paid advertisements and more authoritative content. Advertisements are a chief source of revenue for Google and other web search engines, and they are placed prominently in your search results to generate income from advertisers.

In short, Google is powerful for retrieving a wide variety of web materials that you need to take time to sort out and evaluate. Now that you understand why you see the results that you do, let’s discuss Google’s scholarly search engine, Google Scholar.

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LIB 160: Information Literacy Copyright © 2019 by Iowa State University Library Instruction Services. All Rights Reserved.

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